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Kids' Phone Safety Blog

Is Spying On Text Messages Illegal?

November 30, 2015
texts spying

The common rule is that it is illegal to spy on text messages because it violates a person’s privacy. By spying, it’s meant unauthorized surveillance over one’s mobile device without their consent.

On the other hand, there are circumstances under which one person can track text messages from one cell phone of another. However, they are limited to some specific cases:

  • when parents monitor their underage children;
  • when a business owner supervises employees, who know and agree to such surveillance;
  • when one person sets up monitoring software on a device he or she owns personally.
message monitoring

Source: mhealth.jmir.org

Talking about surveillance in legal terms, no one actually calls it spying, but monitoring. Sure, someone may say that from moral and ethical perspectives there is no difference between these two meanings. However, there is. The major issue here is privacy. Who owns a person’s privacy? – that is the question.

Monitoring Underage Children

Parents take care of kids before they hit the full age. As long as children are underage, parents bear complete responsibility for them, make solutions for them, support them, and protect their living. Parents identify what is wrong and what is right, develop skills and habits, secure kids’ privacy and can control it, so as to prevent kids from facing dangers they are too young to handle on their own.

The control over children’s privacy for their own protection also means intervention. Today, when the use of mobile gadgets has become a trivial part of our lives, privacy has another specific shape – online privacy, which must be secured appropriately.

children with phones

Source: liverdoctor.com

When it comes to the use of seemingly harmless smartphones and tablets, children may come across even more potential risks than in real world. Cyberbullying, online predators, sexting – these major online issues are enough to make the alarm bell ring and take action. Especially, considering that cyberbullying remains one of main suicide factors among teenagers.

The so-called intervention into kids’ online privacy is parental control. It includes the use of monitoring software to follow activities on mobile devices and on the Internet. It is a widely-used legal practice, which helps parents not only find out about misbehavior or breaking family rules, but also avert many potential dangers in the making.

Since texting is the most popular form of communication among kids these days, the most effective way to get to know what may hurt your child is monitoring text messages (email monitoring software can also be useful). From this perspective seeing text messages on someone else’s phone (if someone else is your son or daughter) is absolutely legal.

Employee Supervision

The keystone of every successful business is protecting its data and keeping it private. Many companies practice signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between a business owner and an employee, who puts his or her name to not sharing confidential materials, knowledge, or information with third parties.

reading employee texts


As a part of an agreement between the aforementioned sides, an employee may be noticed that his or her corporate mobile device will be under surveillance, so as to control activities on it and prevent data leakage.

It means that monitoring corporate devices as well as employees’ activities on them, including incoming and outgoing text messages, doesn’t violate the law, in case employees know and agree to it.

Monitoring Personal Devices

No one can forbid you to install any software on your own device. Thus, you can use a monitoring application on your smartphone or tablet and always know what is going on it, even if you give it to another person.

A person who takes your device for using should realize that although he or she is using it at the moment, this device belongs to you. And you as the owner have all rights to monitor it, track where it is, read text messages on it and monitor all kinds of activities performed.


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Summing up, if one of the mentioned conditions is satisfied when checking text messages on someone else’s phone, it means that such monitoring is legal and cannot be considered spying.

Learn about all the advantages of mobile monitoring with Pumpic!

Rachel Fowlers
Rachel Flowers is a journalist with a big passion for technologies. She has recently graduated from San Francisco State University and sees herself as a freelance writer. She enjoys blogging about computer and mobile technologies as well as different software. In her free time, she learns coding and foreign languages. Contact .

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  • Lois Wakeham

    Hi I have a 22 year old disabled brother who I purchased a tablet for. He is unable to use the device himself, so his carers use it with him. on closer inspection of the tablet search history has been deleted and apps used in the middle of the night. As he cannot speak or walk this has made me think that the staff are using his tablet for personal use. As i am his appointtee and legal guardian would I be able to put monitoring software on his tablet? The tablet is in my name.

    • Desiree Oyer

      Hello Lois,
      Sorry, we cannot answer your question. We suggest you address a legal adviser in your area to get an expert opinion.

      Desiree Oyer of Pumpic